Cajun country stretches across southern Louisiana from Houma in the east, via Lafayette, the hub of the region, into Texas. It’s a region best enjoyed away from the larger towns, by visiting the many old-style hamlets that, despite modernization, can still be found cut off from civilization in soupy bayous, coastal marshes and inland swamps.

Cajuns are descended from the French colonists of Acadia, part of Nova Scotia, which was taken by the British in 1713. The Catholic Acadians, who had fished, hunted and farmed for more than a century, refused to renounce their faith and swear allegiance to the English king, and in 1755 the British expelled them all, separating families and burning towns. About 2500 ended up in French Louisiana, where they were given land to set up small farming communities, enabling them to rebuild the culture they had left behind. Hunting, farming and trapping, they lived in relative isolation until the 1940s, when major roads were built, immigrants from other states poured in to work in the oil business, and Cajun music, popularized by local musicians such as accordionist Iry Lejeune, came to national attention. Since then, the history of the Cajuns has continued to be one of struggle. The erosion of coastal wetlands threatens the existence of entire communities; the silting up of the Atchafalaya Basin is having adverse effects on fishing and shrimping; and not only are coastal towns in the firing line of devastating hurricanes, including Katrina, that hurtle up from the Gulf of Mexico, but also catastrophic oil spills, such as the BP disaster of 2010. After Roosevelt’s administration decreed that all American children should speak English in schools, French was practically wiped out in Cajun country, and the local patois of the older inhabitants, with its strong African influences, was kept alive primarily by music. Since the 1980s, CODOFIL (the Council for Development of French in Louisiana) has been devoted to preserving the region’s indigenous language and culture, and today you will find many signs, brochures and shopfronts written in French.

Cajun and zydeco fais-do-dos – dances, with live bands, held mostly on weekends – are great fun, and visitors will find plenty of opportunity to dance, whether at a restaurant, a club or one of the region’s many festivals.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The best aerial views in the world

The best aerial views in the world

Got a head for heights? If you're craving a new perspective on your travels, the best thing to do is get up high. From mountain-top panoramas to cityscapes, her…

17 Oct 2017 • Olivia Rawes camera_alt Gallery
American beauty: the southwest USA in pictures

American beauty: the southwest USA in pictures

After two months road tripping through the southwest USA, Rough Guides photographer Tim Draper captured the region's stunning natural beauty through his lens. H…

16 Oct 2017 • Tim Draper insert_drive_file Article
Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

Budget trips: 20 of the cheapest places to travel

That ever-growing travel wish list might be putting some pressure on your pocket – but there are plenty of destinations where you'll get more bang for your b…

11 Oct 2017 • Emma Gibbs camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook